The Perfect Christian Woman

Sharon Body Image, Girl Stuff, Self-esteem, Women's Ministry 5 Comments

Beauty QueenSeveral years ago I attended a convention for religious broadcasters in the United States. I was representing the ministry I worked for at the time, which had a radio segment that aired all over the country. We were at the convention to network, meet other broadcasters, and get the ministry’s name out there.

To my surprise, the convention itself was actually very exciting. I got to meet well-known Christian authors, I saw a pre-screening of The Passion movie, and I had fascinating conversations with ministries from all over the U.S. Overall, it was a great experience.

However, there is one thing about the convention that stands out in my mind, one thing that I will never forget. It serves as a kind of accountability for me in my own ministry today…

Because the convention was for religious broadcasters, there were a number of Christian t.v. shows present, along with their hosts. And let me tell you, the women who hosted those shows were BEAUTIFUL! They walked around that convention hall with perfect hair, perfect make-up and perfect clothes. They were incredibly put together and flawless, these successful Christian women, and that is when the first seed of self-doubt planted itself in my heart.

I looked at those women, who were smart and driven and had already accomplished a lot in ministry, and then I looked at myself–my hair was flat, my clothes were boring, and Lysa, the president of the ministry, had to help me put on my make-up because I was so pathetic at it. I was far from perfect.

So as I observed those flawless women and then compared myself to them, I thought to myself, “If this is what it means to be a successful women’s minister, then I clearly don’t measure up.”

I still find myself thinking that today. I look at women like Beth Moore, who is not only a powerful writer and speaker, but is also drop-dead gorgeous, and I feel as though I fall miserably short. I believe the lie that the perfect Christian woman has got to be the whole package, which poses a problem for me since I bite my finger nails, I can never figure out how to get my hair to look right, and I’m barely tall enough to see over the steering wheel. The whole package? That, I am not.

On a head level, I think we all know how faulty that logic is. Scripture is full of verses about how God looks at the inside and not the outside. That message is clear. But the reason my experience at the convention was so definitive for me as a women’s minister is that it made me pause and wonder–Do I ever make other women feel insecure about themselves? Do I convey the message that looking put together and perfect is an important part of being a Christian woman? Do I spend so much time primping and looking cute that I compromise my witness? While I may tell young women that outward beauty doesn’t matter, do my actions undermine my words?

Well I recently discovered that Paul talks about this very thing in 1 Corinthians 2 when he explains to the Corinthian church the he did not come to them with “eloquence” or “persuasive words.” This point is significant because Paul was extremely educated and well-versed in the art of rhetoric. He was very capable of speaking articulately and persuasively. But he instead chose to keep it simple.

Why? Because he didn’t want the presentation to distract people from the message. He didn’t want his listeners to be so impressed by his rhetorical gifts that they missed out on what he was actually saying.

And Christian women do well to keep this teaching in mind. We must not let the presentation distract people from the message. This principle can play out in any number of ways, but one of the most salient examples is the way we present ourselves outwardly. If we are trying to encourage one another to focus on inward beauty, but we spend excessive amounts of time on our outward beauty, then we will undermine our message. Rather than spurring women toward the Gospel, we’ll be encouraging their insecurities, self-doubt, and vanity.

Now that is not to say that we should wear burlap sacks and stop washing our hair–it’s definitely ok to look nice! God created us to be beautiful and we should celebrate that fact. But I am writing this as a kind of heart check. We need to examine our motives in how much time we spend on our outward beauty. Are you spending time on your outward appearance for the glory of God, or in order to feel better about yourself? And more importantly, do you spend as much time working on your inward beauty as do you your outward beauty?

I, for one, hope that in my time as a women’s minister, I have never misled women into thinking that being the “perfect Christian woman” means looking flawless and put together. If I have, I apologize greatly and ask for forgiveness. But the truth of the matter is that there is no “perfect Christian woman.” By that I mean that there isn’t ONE standard to which we should all strive. God created us to be unique and diverse because each one of us reflects His infinite majesty in our own special way. If we aspire to fit in a cookie cutter mold, then we’ll erase the unique beauty in each one of us, and thereby steal a little bit of glory away from God. The only standard that we should all be seeking is holiness, so if there is any message that I want my life to convey, it is the importance of pursuing Him. Anything else is just a distraction.

This blog entry was previously posted in February of 2008.

44

Comments 5

  1. J

    Hey Sharon, I appreciate you re-posting this! I am actually living in a huge Turkish city right now, and have been struck by how even the most urbane ans sophisticated city women wear about 60 percent less makeup than the average church-going woman. I went out last night with our downstairs neighbor girl friends, one of whom is a lawyer and the other is an engineer. They dress very fashionably and you might look at them and say that they could be New Yorkers, but their makeup is very subtle. My city is the home of the harem, where British tourist women first brought back “eye charcoal” used by the ladies of the harem to make their eyes more appealing. All that is to say, that here they’ve maintained a little more of the memory of that so that I overheard my friend comment about a lady who looked somewhat like one of our Southern Baptist ladies’ tea leaders, and said, “boya” meaning, “painted.” Enough said. The men here see a woman who is natural looking and say, “look how virtuous and beautiful she is – clean.” May we remember that, and not try to outdo the other women in how fakely flawless we can look, but rather glorify the Lord with a face that shows who He created us to be – beautiful not of our own doing, but of His.

  2. Nicole

    Thank you for posting this, Sharon! God definitely used your post to speak Truth into my life…I have been struggling lately with feeling “less-than,” and going to a church populated with beautiful, flawlessly put-together women often makes it challenging to see myself as God views me. Also, it’s nice to know that even someone as gorgeous and talented as you struggles with the same issues sometimes….thanks for your honesty.

  3. sherri

    That’s the exact same impression that I’ve gotten myself on reading most christian womens magazines. I’ve also noticed a similar trend in advertising brochuers for womens conferences – particularly those run by mega-churchs.
    Glamour sells, which is why tv and magazine ads invariably feature beautiful women to sell their products. But the backlash is that it makes normal women feel inadequate. (Which can fuel their desire to imitate the ‘successful’ women they’re viewing and make them more inclined to buy the product. Sex sells but glamour is even more effective. If you’re ‘glamerous’ you’re wanted. Which is one of the most basic human needs.
    So yeah. When you see christian women doing exactly the same thing in a christian setting, it can get really irritating. It’s like come to our conference and some of our glamour will rub off on you. Then you’ll be more wanted.
    Since when is that christian?
    That’s actually a really cheap tactic. And particularly when it’s marketed to thousands of women who already struggle with self-image (as most women do) (let alone christian women who can often have quite a bit of brokenness in their backgrounds and are really trying to avoid superficiality and believe God loves them for who they are.)
    And yet in these same conferences (believe me I’ve been to enough) they’ll go on and on about how you’re really a ‘princess’ and ‘beautiful’ in Gods eyes regardless.
    And on and on.
    And on.

    And christian womens magazines can do the same thing. Hound the subject of self-image struggles into the ground accompanied by photographs of beautiful women with frowns on their faces looking in the mirror. Or beautiful, slim women frowning as they stand on a pair of scales if it’s about aneroxia. Or beautiful women in trendy clothes frowning and looking sad (with shadowed lighting) if the article is about cutting. Or beautiful women looked sad and alone if the article is about unfaithfulness, or beautiful women…… and you get the point.
    Even the 60 year olds are usually attractive, well groomed older ladies with nice clothes and warm, sunny lighting.
    It’s not reality and the object is to sell.

    Since when is that christianity?

    And these conferences are magazines are supposed to be our sources as women to learn how to be successful christian women. Ones who God loves unconditionally.

  4. Sibley

    From a young, by most (worldly) standards moderately attractive, Christian woman:

    Its not how you look. The Good Lord has blessed me with a face that is, you know, good enough to attract worldly attention – and usually not for the betterment of my life experience.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter what kind of body or face a person has, it is always a distraction at some point or another for the Christian Woman. It doesn’t matter if your hot or not, it is all noise that has the potential to come between you and God. Either you are getting the wrong kind of attention or not enough of it to make you feel pretty in the eyes of people who’s opinion doesn’t matter anyway. What Godly value is there in being a “looker”?

    This gets at an issue deeper than the wrinkles Joan Rivers tries to Botox away; the fact of the matter is, we all need that feeling of applause. Jeremiah talks about it in 9:21-26. The word used is either Boast or Glory depending on what version you have, but the original Hebrew was “Hallelu” which can also be translated to “Praise.” Jeremiah’s point is don’t get your Praise, don’t get your applause from your wisdom, your strength, your wealth, and I think we can very easily extend this to physical beauty.

    See, it is a natural desire to get applause – to get your pats on the back from somewhere or for doing something. Often it is performance based, “hey you did a great job with that project,” or “wow, you are so put together today!” Naturally, the desire for praise creates a problem, because the compliment gives you feedback on that particular aspect of your life. That feedback (and I think in the case of physical beauty we can extend it to the LACK of feedback – a husband not noticing a new dress/hairstyle etc) shapes your identity. Here’s the problem – if you let your ears here this, and you let your heart believe it, this means your identity is in the hands of those giving praise and the jury will ALWAYS be out on how “good” or “beautiful” you are. This type of praise needs constant assurance. It is based on your last action or last photo or last look! Pssht! How silly!

    Until you hear the applause of God, your sense of identity is always going to be distorted.

    See, your face, painted or unpainted, doesn’t matter to God. Now I exclude the “leading another into sin” part for the purpose of the inward-focused discussion but it is important to note. Suffice to say it is not a great idea to look like a harlot with the intention of being a harlot or inspiring unholy lust.

    There is an extreme fragility to any identity not rooted in God.

    So it follows to ask, “how is it possible to get that applause from God when we have very clearly fallen short of the Glory of God?” Well this is kinda a no-brainer: It isn’t because of your performance, or beauty, or wealth, or strength that you deserve a pat from God – it is because God doesn’t see your sin (providing you’ve asked for forgiveness). He sees you beautiful, because Jesus has removed every pimple, every bit of spiritual cellulite and every wrinkle from your soul by his death and resurrection on the Cross. You are brilliant and He loves you.

    Wait on God. If you don’t feel pretty, drink a glass of water and get enough sleep and when you wake up, remember that whether you’re saggy or lifted, wrinkled or freckled, tanned, pale, chunky or boney, your vessel is of no concern to the God of the Universe because he created your beautiful soul.

    The most beautiful women (and men I might add) have ever seen are those who truly shine with the love of Jesus. Others may not always see you in this light if they do not have eyes to see. But that’s ok – it isn’t about them.

    Remember to keep your heart soft and not become bitter wishing, “Geez I wish I were her.” God didn’t make you her and for darn good reason.

  5. Brenda Hubbs

    Beauty is a delima in our society. It seems even more so when you identify yourself as a Christian. How much is too much make up? Is staying stylish mere vanity? How much money spent on ourselves is too much? Is it wrong to want to look our best? Perhaps if we focus on the love of Christ and let our love of Him and our desire to please God prevail, rather than dressing to please others, we can arrive at the answers that are in keeping with our principles. Do I look sexy? Or do I look put together? Do I look colorful and lound, or pleasant and approachable? What message do I want to convey? Do I project authenticity, friendliness and the joy of Christ within? Or dowidness, being out of step and outdated? Or perhaps self focussed and just a little too put together? How can I best forward Jesus’ message? Thinking about it this way seems helpful. I personally want to appear authentic, individual, friendly current and approachable. I believe these qualities are the best wrappings in which to project Christ’s love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *